14 June 2023


Thanks to your generous donations, a year ago today our rescued lion arrived at his wonderful new sanctuary home in Italy. Born Free’s Rescue & Care Officer Dr Andrea Donaldson reports.

Simba enjoying food enrichment in his temporary enclosure at the sanctuary

Simba had such a sad beginning to life but, like you, we believe the well-being of every lion matters. Together, a year ago today, we gave him a new home in Italy. 

In September 2020, a very young cub – in poor health – was found in a cardboard box in an abandoned garage near Moscow, Russia. The cub was emaciated and had a nasty skin condition; both as a result of severe neglect. The events that occurred in the young cub’s life prior to him being found are unknown, but it is likely that he was intentionally abandoned due to his poor physical condition.

A tiny, sickly looking lion cub on a pink fleecy blanket, in a rescue centre

Simba pictured soon after being rescued

Simba was rescued and cared for by our friends at Wild Nature Hospital in Russia, who nursed him back to health and housed him in one of their enclosures. However, because of a lack of enclosure space they needed to find Simba a lifetime home elsewhere and Born Free was contacted for assistance. In December 2021, Simba was transported to Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium for temporary housing, while we facilitated a suitable space for Simba with our partners at Animanatura, a wildlife sanctuary in Italy. Simba finally arrived at Animanatura one year ago, in June 2022.

One year on and Simba has settled into his new home well. Now approaching his third birthday, he is growing more handsome everyday as his mane develops and he is quickly maturing into a true ‘King of the Jungle’! As is typical with lions, Simba spends much of his time relaxing and using a large tree truck to stretch and scratch his claws.

He also engages well with enrichment placed in his enclosure; his carers at Animanatura particularly enjoy watching Simba stalk, hunt, jump and play with large pieces of meat they hang from the trees in his enclosure. Simba’s enrichment is carefully designed to stimulate him and encourage him to display and engage in as many natural behaviours as possible.

“After an awful start to his life it is now amazing to know that Simba is receiving the love, care and respect he rightfully deserves,” said Maggie Balaskas, Born Free’s Head of Rescue & Care. “Every morning he gets to wake up with the warmth of the sun on his face and is living in the best possible temporary enclosure, that encourages him to roam and display natural behaviours. It is astonishing that the trade in wild animals is still rife today, but Born Free continues its essential work to end the suffering of captive wildlife animals.”